Saturday, January 21, 2012

When Teachers Cheat, Students Fail

You don't fatten a pig by weighing it.

I don't know much about fattening and weighing pigs, but this old adage does seem to make a lot of sense.  If you want a pig to tip the scales then you focus on the amount and quality of the food you feed it.  Likewise, if you want students to score high on tests you need to focus on the amount and quality of their instruction.  

What happens when we focus on the end result rather than the process of getting there?  The No Child Left Behind Act has given us the lab experiment required to answer this question.  The conclusion:  people cheat.  Cheating is such a big issue that our government now needs to "host a symposium on cheating and publish "best practices" recommendations on how to prevent, detect and respond to cheating in schools."  Click here for the full article.  Guess what...  It's not the students who are cheating, it's the teachers!

You will never hear me claim that I have the answers to all our educational problems today, because I don't.  But, I do know that focusing on standardized testing is not the solution.  Testing is not bad, just as using a scale to weigh a pig is not a bad thing.  It's a helpful tool.  But we need to treat testing as a tool.  It is not a replacement for good instruction.

My message to parents:  Get involved!  Don't just sit around and wait for the test scores.  Take a look at the process.  Find out what is really happening in your child's classroom.  Check often for comprehension and mastery.  You and your children's teachers are allies.  You should both have the same goal.  Work with them and do whatever it takes to ensure your child is getting the quality and amount of education he or she needs.  And be aware that test scores never give the full picture.  Especially when the test has been doctored.

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